This is not my memory but a story told to me by my grandmother, Gladys Hawkes. Gladys was born in 1882 to the Gifford family, when her father, Joseph Gifford, was a miller who lived at Creekmoor Mill.
Joseph also owned GIFFORDS, the greengrocer in Poole High Street.
In 1887, when Gladys was about seven years old, the shops were closed on Wednesday afternoon for the half day closing. Gladys was allowed to play in the shop whilst her father filed the shelves for the next day. Gladys made her own game by taking a hand full of dried peas and a thin metal tube for a pea shooter. She would then crouch behind the closed shop door and fire dried peas through the letter box at people passing by. She told me this was most amusing and people would be looking round to see what had hit then so unexpectedly.
The mill supplied Poole grocer shops with flour. There were other mills in Poole but they dealt mostly in animal feed.
Another story this time a little earlier:
The Rector of St James Church recalled a story from 1901 when he buried a woman who had died at (for the times) the remarkable age of 103. A little before her death she told him that, as a young woman, she had been a servant at the Antelope and distinctly remembered Lord Nelson visiting the hotel. She said she had a clear memory of him standing at the door and seeing his lordship entering his carriage, significantly adding ‘with his one arm.’ If this story is true, and the Rector had no reason to disbelieve her, Lord Nelson was probably on his way to Weymouth to join the court of King George III.
There is another possible explanation for this story, that she had seen the mummers entering the Antelope and one was dressed as Lord Nelson. Poole has a number of local customs or traditions and they usually took place in, or involved, the town’s public houses. Until the First World War one such custom was the Mumming Play, a pastime which has it roots in medieval times and the re-enacting of religious festivals by ordinary people. This evolved over the years and resulted in the townsfolk dressing up in gay costumes and exaggerated top hats, and carrying any musical instrument they could lay their hands on such as trumpets, bugles and tambourines. Others dressed to look like the names of particular public houses such as the Duke of Wellington, the Lord Nelson the Shah of Persia and the Duke of York, and there was always a Father Christmas present. So may she have seen a mummer, rather than the real Lord Nelson?
Both my next door neighbours murdered!
In the time that I have lived in Poole High Street, both my next-door neighbours have been murdered. The first took place above Hepworth’s the outfitters at no. 95 High Street. The manager of Hepworths lived above the shop with his disabled wife who spent most of her time in a wheel chair. One night I noticed smoke issuing from the back room of the shop and I went round to see what was wrong. Apparently he had left a cloths iron switched on and it started a fire. Whilst he attempted to put it out, I tried to save the lady upstairs by bringing her downstairs in her wheel chair – luckily the firemen arrived in time as the chair got stuck. The fire was put out and all was well. Some time later we found out the manager was so frightened for his wife’s safety that he decided to end her life. He was imprisoned for life.
The other murder occurred to my nearest next-door neighbour on the other side, further up the street in Dewhursts the butcher. Again the manager and his wife lived above the shop. One night the police were called as they had had a fight and we later found out that his wife had been found covered in blood dead. The manager was accused of murder.